THRALL – The future of drone technology and its potential uses in Central Texas Blacklands farming operations were featured at the Stiles Farm Field Day held recently in Thrall.
The field day, conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, showcased the latest in technological advancements in field crop production.
“We want to introduce some of this technology and how you can apply it in your operation,” Bob Avant, director of AgriLife Research corporate relations in College Station, told attendees during the morning field demonstration.
Avant, Cope and Thomasson represent a team of scientists who are part of a larger set of UAV projects initiated by AgriLife Research. Stiles Farm Field Day attendees got a firsthand look at a UAV in action and its potential applications. One demonstration field included cotton infected with cotton root rot.
Dr. Alex Thomasson, AgriLife Research engineer in College Station, said it will take some time for farmers to learn the new technology and how to use the equipment.
“You need to spend a couple of weeks learning how it works,” he said. “This technology is something that will be readily useful in the future and providingimages to make important decisions about what to do in the field.”
Thomasson led a demonstration in a cotton field showing how the technology can be used to manage cotton root rot, a fungal disease leading to crop loss if left untreated. Dr. Dale Cope, associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, was joined by undergraduate students in leading the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, demonstration.
The group demonstrated how to launch the autonomous aircraft, fly several circle patterns over the cotton field to take digital images and make a proper landing.
“If you take the pictures from the UAV, you can find exactly where the cotton root rot problem is in the field,” Thomasson said. “Treatment cost is about $50 an acre, so instead of having to treat a whole field, you can pinpoint the exact location you need to treat the field for some economic savings.”
During the noon program, Avant, on behalf of the Williamson County Farm Bureau, presented James “Buster” Davidson with the 2015 Agriculturalist of the Year award, and Joe P. Mueck II was presented the Agribusiness Person of the Year award.
Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension director for state operations in College Station, presented Stiles Farm Foundation scholarships to Emma-Leigh Coffman, Bell County, and Whitney Whitsel, Lee County.
The Stiles Farm Foundation was established by the Stiles family at Thrall in Williamson County. According to the foundation, J.V. and H.A. Stiles wanted to commemorate their father, James E. Stiles, and the land he worked. They also wanted to help neighboring farmers and others throughout the Central Texas Blacklands region learn new farming practices.
To do so, in 1961 the Stiles Farm Foundation was established and became part of the Texas A&M University System. The farm is used by AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research, which conduct field experiments and use the facility as a teaching platform.
For more information about the Stiles Farm, visit http://stilesfarm.tamu.edu.